Boondocking, or dry camping, is our favorite way to camp. No water source, electricity, wifi, pretty much just you, nature and your RV. Of course one RV boondocking spot may be better than another, and well, sometimes you end up dry camping in a parking lot. BUT, in this post I will try to help you find good RV boondocking spots to stay at before you hit the road.
1. Area Scouting
First things first. Where are you headed? Do you want to stay near town, the river, the National Park? All of these questions need to be answered before you begin your search. This is where a little pre-planning comes in to play. I’ll use West Yellowstone, MT as the example.
We knew we wanted to spend a good amount of time inside Yellowstone National Park, so for us, staying at an RV park within the park for 2 weeks wasn’t feasible financially. Our goal was to be as close to the park as possible and camp for free. So the search began for a spot within 10 miles of the west entrance to the park. Once you have figured out your target area, on to step 2…
Get the coordinates to 5 of our favorite boondocking spots – include 3 near National Parks!
2. The Ultimate Campground App
This app has been the best $3.99 I have ever spent hands down. I HIGHLY recommend this app for those looking to find good boondocking spots as well as state and national parks, private rv parks etc. Keep in mind as far as boondocking goes, this interactive map doesn’t have every single spot listed, but it does give you a starting point.
If we are looking for a boondocking spot, first I set the filters on the app. All I do is check 2 things in the list: under Type of Campground: RV, and under Fees: Free. This removes all the pay to stay campgrounds and leaves all of the dispersed sites listed. I then zoom in to the area on the map we are headed and start clicking away. Be sure to always double check that the site is indeed free and allows RV camping by clicking on the web link in the listing.
The two most common land types in our experience are Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and Forrest Service (FS). This does not mean all BLM land and FS land is free! We have encountered pay to stay sites for both, but that’s where you have to double check the web links in the listing. The next step might be the most important of all!
3. Google Maps Double Check
When we first started our trip, I got super lucky with the first couple boondocking spots. What a great way to start a trip, I thought, but it was a little misleading. By the time we hit our 4th boondocking spot, just outside of Portland, Oregon, we found out the harsh reality that sometimes even my favorite app can let you down. In hindsight, a little double checking would have gone a long way.
Inside the app, once you click on a listing, it gives you the GPS coordinates. We usually just punch the GPS coordinates our Garmin RV GPS when we are ready to hit the road. BUT I highly recommend taking those coordinates, punching them into Google Maps and checking the aerial and road views before heading that direction.
This would have saved us a bunch of time and frustration, and ultimately, some money that we had to spend on a campground that night. More times than not, you can get a general idea if your rig will fit in the area available or even make it down the road to the spot.
Now remember, not every spot is super specific, and sometimes it is just a starting point. Keep this in mind when using the app. Sometimes when staying at dispersed camping areas, a person drops a pin on the map at the exact location they camped and not at every available camping spot. If you drive down the road a little bit further, you could find that sweet secret spot that has it all.
Get the coordinates to our favorite boondocking spots + why we love that location + what to look out for…
Make sure to always remember to stay within the land’s boundaries and to follow all the rules associated with the land. We want to keep what little free land we have left in the USA in good shape and make sure it’s here for our kid’s kids to enjoy.
Do you have any tips for us to find free camping spots? We’d love to hear them. And as always, feel free to ask any questions!
More Boondocking Resources
6 Ways to Save Water, Power, and Reduce Trash while Boondocking – so you can save the planet and stay out longer!
The Ultimate Guide: How Much Does it Cost to Full-time RV (with a free budgeting worksheet)